26 March 2023


  • This edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BSCKW1L1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Four Tails Publishing Ltd. (February 20, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 325 pages
  • #7 in the WISE Agency series

Synopsis (Amazon)


When the women of the WISE Enquiries Agency are approached by the frantic owner of a historic cottage in a picturesque Welsh seaside hamlet, they agree to help. After all – there can’t be any such thing as a killer cottage, can there? And isn’t a cursed cottage just as unlikely? They’re about to find out – when Christine and Annie take up residence.

Meanwhile, Carol goes undercover to investigate a day spa with some dangerous treatments, leaving Mavis to stake out a man who might be incapacitated because of a work-related accident. Will this bricklayer become belligerent if he spots her on the job?

Because our engaging private investigators are busy with paying clients, it falls to Henry, eighteenth duke of Chellingworth, to try to solve the riddle of the missing silver mugs, which is a pressing priority for his mother, the dowager, as she seeks to take over the organization of the christening of his son and heir.

Early spring in Wales is a busy time for the WISE women, and the titled Twyst family – join them to find out how they cope, in this, the seventh book in the series.

My Take

As with other offerings in this series, a quick entertaining read, and plenty of openings for future books.The team takes on a number of cases, as well carrying on investigations closer to home.

My rating: 4.3 

I've also read

Review: THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, Michael Robotham

  • This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01N7SVPRI
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sphere (July 11, 2017)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 385 pages
  • my original review


Amazon summary
Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it's Meghan Shaughnessy's.
These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common - a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.
Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.

Fantastic Fiction synopsis

Meghan doesn’t know Agatha, but Agatha knows Meghan. And the one thing Agatha looks forward to each day is catching a glimpse of her, the effortlessly chic customer at the grocery store where she works stocking shelves. Meghan has it all: two adorable children, a handsome and successful husband, a happy marriage, a beautiful house, and a popular parenting blog that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of the baby growing inside her, to return her calls.

Yet if Agatha could look beyond the gloss and trappings of Meghan’s “perfect life,” she’d see the flaws and doubts. Meghan has her secrets too, especially one that she dare not ever tell. Soon the lives of these two women will collide in the most spellbinding and intimate of ways, until their secrets are exposed by one shocking act that cannot be undone. From internationally bestselling author Michael Robotham, The Secrets She Keeps is a dark, exquisite, and twisted page-turner so full of surprises, you’ll find it impossible to put down.

My Take

Followers of my blog will know that this is one of my favourite Australian authors and that I have read this novel before.

I am reviewing it a second time, because I am re-reading it with a U3A Crime Fiction group. For some of them this is the first time they have read a book by this author.

So here I want to come up with some pointers for our discussion. However I think it is also important that the readers of this blog don't come across any spoilers, although of course in our face to face discussion we will be working on the assumption that all participants have read the novel

Here are some of my pointers

  • the dual narrators: Agatha and Meghan. We are told who the narrator is at the beginning of every chapter, but did you eventually get to the stage where you knew who the narrator was? What helped you get to this point?
  • Why does Agatha see Meghan as a model for her own life? What do they have in common? Where do they differ?
  • How does Agatha stalk/watch Meghan and Jack? Why does she do this?
  • What do we learn about Agatha's life history?
  • What secrets do Agatha and Meghan have?
  • What actions has Agatha taken in her efforts to become a mother? 
  • How has Agatha become a killer?
  • This novel marks the first appearance of Cyrus Haven, a police profiler who will later appear in his own series
       1. Good Girl, Bad Girl (2019)
       2. When She Was Good (2020)
       3. Lying Beside You (2022)
  • The BBC TV series: In 2020 the novel became the basis of a 6 episode tv series that, apart from being set in Australia, stayed fairly close plot-wise to the original book. However a second 6 part series screening in 2022 goes well beyond the original book

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

16 March 2023

Review: ONE FALSE MOVE, Robert Goddard

  •  this edition provided by my local library
  • Published by Transworld Publishers 2019
  • ISBN 978787630437
  • 339 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

What value can be put on a human mind?

How Joe Roberts does what he does is a mystery. He has a brain that seems able to outperform a computer. To a games company like Venstrom that promises big profits if his abilities can be properly exploited. So they send Nicole Nevinson to track him down and make him an offer too good to refuse.

But Venstrom aren't the only people interested in Joe. His current boss, a shady businessman, is already making serious money out of Joe's talents and isn't going to let him go without a fight. And then there are other forces, with still darker intentions, who have their own plans for him.

Almost before she knows it, Nicole's crossed an invisible line into a world where the game being played has rules she doesn't understand and where no-one can help her win.

But win she must. Because the battle now isn't just for Joe's mind - it's for Nicole's life. 

My Take

Go is an ancient Chinese game of strategy, long believed to provide challenges for the most brilliant minds. Played worldwide it sorts the wheat from the chaff. And Joe Roberts is definitely brilliant, to the point where he can outwit the computer. Joe is only known to have been beaten once. When games company Venstrom detects Joe's ability through his constant winning of their games online, they decide they must have him, and they send Nicole to make him an offer.

But others high in the world of Artificial Intelligence have become aware of Joe's abilities too and are determined to gain control of his mind.

But the plot lost me when it transitioned into the world of international espionage, and I had trouble with credibility. 

My rating: 4.0

I've also read


12 March 2023

Review: MURDER ON THE EDGE, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00N62WUSE
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (August 29, 2014)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 255 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ B09FCCDBFB
  • #3 in the Inspector Skelgill Investigates series

Synopsis (Amazon


WHEN A MAN IS FOUND STRANGLED by a climbing rope beneath the Lake District's notorious Sharp Edge, it is assumed he is the victim of a tragic accident.

But Detective Inspector Skelgill suspects otherwise, and his fears are borne out when a second corpse is discovered close to Striding Edge. Soon it appears that a ritualistic serial killer stalks Cumbria's fells.

As the body count increases, Skelgill must determine the connection between the seemingly randomly selected targets – for it is the only hope of ending the reign of terror and unmasking the perpetrator.

My Take

There were plenty of puzzles to solve in this outing: who has killed these men? why have they been killed? how have they been killed? why have their bodies been presented where they are? how did they get there?

The reader gets some help with answering the first question and hints are given to the answers of the others. Plenty of chance to exercise "the little grey cells".

I'm enjoying the character development of Skelgill, Jones, Leyton, and Smart, and even the dog Cleopatra who was added in the second novel. So far the plots have given the author good opportunities to describe Cumbria in particular.

I'm beginning to suspect that these novels are a bit formulaic, but I also have to admit I'm hooked. So far the plots have varied in their settings and in the methodology.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

11 March 2023

Review: MURDER IN SCHOOL, Bruce Beckham

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00IBIG32C
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 1st edition (February 7, 2014)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 271 pages
  • #2 of 20 in the Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates series 

Synopsis (Amazon

WHEN A LONG-SERVING MASTER at one of England’s most prestigious public schools drowns in Bassenthwaite Lake, Detective Inspector Skelgill is summoned to investigate his apparent suicide.

It soon becomes clear that senior members of staff are not all that they seem. As the school closes ranks, Skelgill realises he is pitted against a sinister power struggle for control of its highly lucrative operation.

A second violent death threatens to throw the police off the scent, and the sudden mysterious disappearance of a VIP pupil sows panic in their ranks. In a race against time Skelgill is faced by the unthinkable consequences of a third tragedy on his watch. 

My Take

While the Editor's Note clearly states that this novel (and all others in the series) is a "stand-alone whodunit", I take issue with that descriptor. The novels are part of a series, and each novel builds on the reader's knowledge of the characters and the environment in which they work. The building background helps the reader predict how Skelgill and his colleagues will react to new challenges.

I'm not sure about the credibility of the plot of this one but I enjoyed it none-the-less. Much less of the conversation was in local dialect, which was a bit of a relief, but possibly that was because Skelgill interacted with fewer locals. Skelgill himself comes across as a multi-skilled (physically) rough diamond, tough, but likeable. 

I can feel myself becoming addicted...

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.4, MURDER IN ADLAND- Skelgill #1

7 March 2023

Review: THE ABC MURDERS, Agatha Christie

  • This edition made available on Amazon (Kindle)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0046RE5CM
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins; Masterpiece Ed edition (October 14, 2010)
  • Originally published 1936
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 244 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 042513024X
  • My original review
  • this cover shows Jon Malkovitch as Poirot    

Agatha Christie’s world-famous serial killer mystery, reissued with a striking cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers.

There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card he leaves beside each victim’s corpe the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place.

Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans…

From the Back Cover

There’s a serial killer on the loose, working his way through the alphabet and the whole country is in a state of panic.

A is for Mrs. Ascher in Andover, B is for Betty Barnard in Bexhill, C is for Sir Carmichael Clarke in Churston. With each murder, the killer is getting more confident—but leaving a trail of deliberate clues to taunt the proud Hercule Poirot might just prove to be the first, and fatal, mistake.

My take

Once again this is a novel I am reading with my U3A Agatha Christie Reading Group, and it is a re-read for me. Once again I have used the note-making facility on my Kindle to make a big list of the things that I want to talk about. (I actually started off using a printed copy, and then thought this note-making ability would be very useful).

Here are some of the things we are going to talk about - please leave a comment if you'd like to contribute to our discussion

  • The disclosure right at the beginning by Captain Hastings that he has departed from his usual practice of using only his own account, and has included third person accounts by someone else. So who wrote these extra chapters?
  • this novel was originally published in 1936, but the setting is only a year before?
  • How old is Poirot at this stage - Let's say he was about 60 when he arrived as a Belgian refugee during World War 1. Is he getting past it? Is Agatha Christie ageing him in "real time"? 
  • Poirot and Hastings trying to prevent aging. Poirot with his black hair dye, Hastings with his comb-over
  • I think it is Agatha Christie's only novel with a plot about a serial killer. But am I right? Aren't there some novels where the killer strikes more than once?
  • How did Hercule Poirot tackle solving the puzzle. Why does Hastings get annoyed by his method? How do his methods differ from those of the other detectives?
  • the fact that Hercule Poirot has now retired several times, and now tackles only "the cream of crime"
  • The way Poirot is regarded (or not) by the other detectives trying to solve the crime
  • What is ABC trying to do with his letters to Poirot?
  • What are the questions Poirot asks himself in reference to the case? (Why has ABC contacted him rather than going straight to the police?)
  • Why does Poirot get the "vigilante" group together - the victims of crime group. What is he trying to achieve?
  • When does Poirot get his first idea about who is really behind the murders?
  • What is the final solution?

What other questions do YOU think I should put on my list?

My rating: 4.7

See my list of Agatha Christie novels

5 March 2023


  • This edition made available as an e-book through my local library on Libby
  • Originally published 2003, recently republished
  • 400 pages

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)
A vivid psychological suspense novel. 

A diving instructor makes a gruesome discovery in Cranwell Lake - the body of a teenager who has clearly been in the water for many years. Detective Peter Porteous is called to the scene. After trailing through the missing persons files, he deduces that the corpse is Michael Grey, an enigmatic and secretive young man who was reported missing by his foster parents in 1972. 

As the police investigation gets under way in Cranwell, on the other side of the country prison officer Hannah Morton is about to get the shock of her life. For Michael was her boyfriend, and she was with him the night he disappeared. The news report that a body has been found brings back dreaded and long buried memories from her past...

My Take

This stand-alone followed the Inspector Ramsay series, but preceded the Shetland series. 

Detective Peter Porteous and his older assistant Sergeant Eddie Stout don't seem to have made any other appearance, although they had potential as a detective duo. 

The novel is multi-stranded, complex, and well littered with red herrings. There are some interesting scenarios and some well drawn characters. It kept me guessing and I really didn't know who the murderer was, although in retrospect there was a hint.

My rating: 4.5 

I've also read

2 March 2023

Review: MURDER IN ADLAND, Bruce Beckham

  • this edition on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B009T93NO8
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Lucius; 2nd edition (October 18, 2012)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 239 pages
  • Inspector Skelgill series #1  

Synopsis (Amazon)
WHEN A HIGH-FLYING ADMAN is stabbed to death on a company weekend in the English Lake District, local detective Daniel Skelgill finds himself wrenched from his rural Cumbrian comfort zone.

As the investigation unfolds, DI Skelgill is led a merry dance between London and Edinburgh, at every turn confronted by uncooperative suspects – colleagues, wife and lovers of the deceased – each of whom is possessed of motive and opportunity.

Is this a crime of passion, a professional hit, or a cleverly calculated killing borne out of greed and jealousy?

In this traditional-style whodunit, the case can only be solved by carefully piecing together the essential clues – but Skelgill is running out of time. The patience of his superiors wears thin, while the actions of an anonymous agent provocateur serve only to advance the moment when the killer must strike again.

My Take

There seem to be a number of British crime fiction authors publishing multiple titles in rapid succession on Kindle recently, so I wasn't really sure whether I wanted to start another series. However I was pleasantly surprised although there were a couple of quirky features which other reviewers have also remarked on: most of the narrative is in the present tense (which some have found annoying); the author has attempted to put some of the dialogue in local Cumbrian dialect. There seemed to be less of the latter as the story progressed, or maybe I just got used to it.

However Skelgill is an interesting character, the mystery was well constructed, with a few red herrings, and we got there. Under pressure by his boss to get a "result", Skelgill has a number of redeeming features, and a reasonable amount of intuition.

There were times when I thought the narrative was a bit long winded, a bit too descriptive, but perhaps I was just , like Skelgill's boss, for progress, and the identification of the murderer.

I've another waiting for me on my Kindle.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Bruce Beckham is an award-winning Amazon best-selling author. A resident of Great Britain, he has travelled and worked in over 60 countries. He is published in both fiction and non-fiction, and a member of the Society of Authors.
You can contact him via his publisher, at this address: lucius-ebooks@live.com or directly at brucebeckham@live.co.uk
His series 'Detective Inspector Skelgill Investigates' now extends to 20 standalone murder mysteries and 6 boxsets, and sells across five continents, from Japan and India to Brazil and the United States of America. Over one million copies have been downloaded worldwide. 

26 February 2023

Review: THE BULLET THAT MISSED, Richard Osman

Synopsis (publisher)

It is an ordinary Thursday and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club is concerned. A decade-old cold case leads them to a local news legend and a murder with no body and no answers.

Then, a new foe pays Elizabeth a visit. Her mission? Kill . . . or be killed.

As the cold case turns white hot, Elizabeth wrestles with her conscience (and a gun), while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim chase down clues with help from old friends and new. But can the gang solve the mystery and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

My Take

Local television compere Mike Waghorn has come to interview members of the Thursday Murder Club at Cooper's Chase for South East Tonight. It was all Joyce's idea. Mike intends his focus to be on retirement communities, he doesn't know he is meeting the Thursday Murder Club. They hope to pump him for information about a former colleague whose body has never been found. Fate seems to have stepped in when Mike himself suggests her name for their attention.

There are a number of continuing characters in this series, so it really does help to have read the earlier books.

One of the aspects that I enjoy about these geezer lit stories is the underlying gentle humour.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

Review: WILD CARD, Simon Rowell

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published by Text Publishing Australia 10 Jan 2023
  • length: 304pp
  • ISBN: 9781922458728
  • #2 Zoe Mayer series 

Synopsis (publisher

One foggy morning on the banks of the Murray River, a body is found in a burnt-out area of grassland. The heavily tattooed victim, who has suffered two bullet wounds to the head, is identified as Freddie Jones, a bikie from Moama.

Detective Sergeant Zoe Mayer is on the case, alongside her trusty service dog, Harry. Although Zoe is determined to track down the murderer, she finds herself stonewalled at every turn—by Freddie’s family, his associates and even the local police. But then a second body is discovered, and soon all bets are off…

Wild Card is a gripping mystery about gang warfare and small-town corruption, featuring a crime-fighting duo like no other.

My Take

A bikie's body is found on the Echuca side of the Murray River and the location makes the case the business of the Victoria Police. The problem is that the bikie is from Moama, on the New South Wales side of the river, another jurisdiction. 

Mick Kovacks, the police sergeant in Moama, says there are no drug or bikie problems on his side of the river - he has a containment strategy that keeps his side clean. But then a second body discovered on the Echuca side looks like a revenge killing.

Zoe Mayer's team discovers that both bodies are long standing friends of Mick Kovacks, so what is going on?

We first met Zoe Mayer and her partner Charlie in THE LONG GAME  where Zoe had been injured and had just returned to work accompanied by a service dog Harry. 

Well constructed and a credible plot.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


23 February 2023


  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Ultimo Press, Pub Date: January 2023
  • 320pp
  • ISBN: 9781761150685 

Synopsis (publisher)

Four generations of women, four ideas about how to live… and dance!

It's 1982. The Knighton women, all living under one roof are about to be struck with dance marathon fever...

Greaty, 75, matriarch of the Knighton family. Turning down marriage proposals since 1927, backbone of her Clare Valley community. Favourite dance: The Foxtrot.
Gran, 55, on the frontline of the women’s movement with her best friend, Wilma. Never saw a picket line she didn’t like. Favourite dance: The Twist.
Lucy, 32, single mother, romantic, looking to find a man and get married – finally. Favourite dance: The Hustle.
Holly, 12, obsessed with Australia's favourite star, best friends with Barry Jones and determined to win Adelaide’s illustrious dance marathon. Favourite dance: Tap!
Greaty, fierce and fearless is creating her legacy, re-writing the rules of The Women’s Annual, a tome her own mother gifted to her as a young woman. In it, she weighs up time-honoured traditions of housekeeping, and reflects on what makes a woman’s life her own, rather than at the beck and call of society’s rules – and men.
Meanwhile, Holly, on the verge of teenhood, is finding her own feet, banking on becoming a famous dancer, until Gran and Wilma decide the marathon is the latest focus of their activism, bringing feminist values to Adelaide’s premier social event of the year…
Bring on the generational conflict that'll leave sequins on the dancefloor.

A story about family, the changing lives of women in the 20th century, and the joy of fulfilling one's purpose and dreams, The Knighton Women’s Compendium is the heartwarming read of this summer.

My Take

This was a lovely read set in South Australia's mid-north near Clare, nearly 40 years ago. 

Holly is 12, soon to be a teenager, living in an all-female household, with her great grandmother, her grandmother, and her mother. The four generations get on remarkably well, but life is about to change. Holly is changing herself into a young woman, but she doesn't realise that her household is about to change too. Her mother is being courted by two local men, one of whom is married.  If she marries, Lucy will move out of the family home. What will happen to Holly then?

A dance marathon in Adelaide brings things to a head.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 4.4, THE FAMILY STRING

18 February 2023

Review: MURDER IN WILLIAMSTOWN, Kerry Greenwood

  • This edition in large print from my local library
  • ISBN:9781760879327
  • Publisher:Allen & Unwin
  • Pub Date:01 Nov 2022
  • Page Extent:296
  • #22 in the Phryne Fisher series

Synopsis (Publisher)

Accustomed to both murder and dalliance, Australia's favourite detective, the inimitable Miss Fisher, returns in a case that will test her courage and judgement to the full.
When the redoubtable Miss Phryne Fisher receives threatening letters at her home, she enlists her unflappable apprentice Tinker to investigate. But as the harassment of Phryne threatens to spin out of control, her lover Lin Chung is also targeted.

Meanwhile, Dot begins to fear that her fiancé, newly promoted Sergeant Hugh Collins, has gone cold on their wedding. And Phryne's clever daughters Ruth and Jane begin their own investigation into suspiciously dwindling funds when they are sent to help at the Blind Institute.

None of this is quite enough to prevent Phryne from accepting an invitation to a magnificent party at the house of the mysterious Hong. When the party is interrupted by shocking tragedy, Phryne gathers all of her unerring brilliance to track down the miscreants.

With some unlikely assistance, Phryne is in a race against time to save a pair of young lovers from disgrace and death.

My Take

The first title in this series was COCAINE BLUES published in 1989. 33 years on, Kerry Greenwood has published #22. Most of the books are set in the late 1920s, and this one appears to be just before the Depression of 1929.

It features most of the usual cast of characters although her adoptive daughters are now old enough to be undertaking small investigations of their own. This story also features Tinker, a boy whom Phryne has also adopted.

I enjoyed this book as much as I remember enjoying earlier titles and Phryne has lost none of her talents and allure. 

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.3, DEAD MAN'S CHEST -#18

4.5, A QUESTION OF DEATH - anthology of short stories set in 1928 

17 February 2023

Review: SILVER TEARS, Camilla Lackberg

  • this edition made available through my local library
  • published by Harper Collins Publishers 2021
  • sequel to THE GILDED CAGE
  • ISBN 978-0-00-828379-7
  • 322 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

One woman…
Faye Adelheim seems to have it all. The head of a global business, she lives in a beautiful villa in Italy with her daughter. But in reality, her life is far from perfect.

One man…
Faye’s ex-husband went to prison for murder. And now, he has escaped, with one thing on his mind. Revenge.

One fight for survival…
Faye will do anything to keep her family safe. But this will be the toughest battle of her life. And not everyone will live to tell the tale. 

My Take

This novel is the sequel to THE GILDED CAGE in which Faye Adelheim freed herself from her manipulative husband, and set up her company Revenge. The narrative of SILVER TEARS fills in some of the gaps in the earlier novel, and completes the story. You could probably treat SILVER TEARS as a stand-alone novel because the author does her best to summarise little strands of the earlier novel, but I think you are best to read them in order, as a pair.

My rating reflects some of the credibility problems that I had with the story line.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


14 February 2023

Review: THE FAMILY STRING, Denise Picton

  • this edition published in 2022 by Ultimo Press
  • supplied by my local library
  • ISBN 978-1765115066-1
  • 325 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A darkly funny and poignant coming of age story by an extraordinary new voice

Meet Dorcas, a spirited 12-year-old struggling to contain her irrepressible humour and naughty streak in a family of Christadelphians in 1960s Adelaide. She is her mother’s least favourite child and always at the bottom of the order on the family’s string of beads that she and her younger siblings Ruthy and Caleb reorder according to their mother’s ever-changing moods.

Dorcas, an aspiring vet, dreams of having a dog, or failing that, a guinea pig named Thruppence. Ruthy wants to attend writing school, and Caleb wants to play footy with the local team. But Christadelphians aren’t allowed to be ‘of the world’ and when their older brother Daniel is exiled to door knock and spread the good word in New South Wales after being caught making out with Esther Dawlish at youth camp, each try their hardest to suppress their dreams for a bigger life. But for a girl like Dorcas, dreams have a habit of surfacing at the most inopportune moments, and as she strives to be the daughter her mother desires, a chain of mishaps lead to a tragedy no one could have foreseen.

This is a superb coming of age story that explores a fraught mother-daughter dynamic, and the secrets adults keep from their children. It is about resilience, and the loves that sustain us when our most essential bonds are tested, and how to find the way back through hope and forgiveness.  

My Take

For my blog readers - this is not my usual crime fiction.

What struck me about this novel was that it is set in Rostrevor, very close to where I live now, and in the 1960s when Dorcas was 12 and I was in my late teens. The Adelaide that is depicted was very similar to the one that I knew even though I was a country girl, and not Christadelphian. However in the 1960s I was very Church-connected and so Dorcas's religious world was familiar to me.

Dorcas's mother obviously had mental health problems, partly because she had left Scotland come to Australia at a young age, she was home-sick, but also because she had three such disparate children. Her husband worked long hours and she got little chance to get out of the home because she didn't, and she resented that. Her social life was confined mainly to Church on Sundays and church events. She had converted to being a Christadelphian and other church members were very critical of how she dressed and how she behaved. In addition, her older son had been sent away because of how he had behaved at a church camp, and because he wanted to have a worldly career. As well as that, he younger son had serious health problems.

Dorcas was on the tip of becoming a teenager, could put her foot in her mouth very easily and her mother seemed to blame her for all the misadventures that befell the family. In addition Dorcas saw herself as the cause of most of the family's problems.

There was a lot of empathy from the author, and I enjoyed the book a lot. There were some extremely well drawn characters, and it easily took me back into the 1960s.

My rating: 4.4

About the Author

Following the establishment of a career leading human services, Denise Picton retrained in business and established a management consulting firm that has worked across Australia and Asia for over thirty years. In her twenties she published short fiction in literary journals, and returned to writing to begin work on a series of novels in her fifties. This is her debut novel.

11 February 2023

Review: THE LOST MAN, Jane Harper

  • this edition published in 2019 by Pan Macmillan Australia
  • supplied by my local library
  • first published 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-76078-106-4
  • 362 pages
  • Reading Guide
  • my earlier review (2018)
Synopsis (publisher)

The man lay still in the centre of a dusty grave under a monstrous sky.

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland.

They are at the stockman's grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last chance for their middle brother, Cameron.

The Bright family's quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn't, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects...

For readers who loved The Dry and Force of Nature, Jane Harper has once again created a powerful story of suspense, set against a dazzling landscape.

Jane Harper Awards
My Take
This year I am leading a Crime Fiction Reading group at my local U3A. The local library is supplying our books on a monthly basis, and virtually all of them are recent Australian crime fiction.
I was really pleased to find that our first read is Jane Harper's THE LOST MAN which I have actually read before, soon after it was published. 
Jane Harper came to the notice of readers with her first novel THE DRY, and THE LOST MAN was her third.

This novel raises so many themes associated with its Australian setting: what it is like living in the Outback, remote locations, what it is like living hundreds or even thousands of miles from towns and cities, as well as more "modern" themes like abuse and domestic violence, the importance of being part of a community, broken marriages,

The story has a number of small mysteries embedded, the answers to which are gradually revealed.

I am interested in hearing what my group generally thinks of what seems to be the final resolution of the mystery. 

The novel is essentially a stand-alone so if you haven't read it yet, it comes highly recommended. Check also the Readers' Guide (after you've read the novel)

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

9 February 2023

Review: THE NEXT GIRL, Pip Drysdale

Synopsis (publisher

A bad day at work. A drunken night. A rogue Instagram follow. That’s all it takes to ruin a life …

The question is, whose life will be ruined? When Billie wakes up in a strange guy’s bed, her first thought is: what happened last night? She can't even remember meeting him. And how the hell did she get to Coney Island?

Then reality bites and the memories flood in – the reason she was in that bar, drinking to start with: today she's going to get fired. Because yesterday her law firm lost a big case: Samuel Grange v Jane Delaney. And it looked like it was her fault.

It wasn't. Yet now Samuel Grange is free to drive off into the sunset in his stupid Porsche and do it all again to another woman. And all Billie can think is: What about the next girl? And the one after that? But there is nothing she can do to stop him.

Unless ... She could expose the truth about him on her own. Then everyone would see what he was really like. And he wouldn't be able to do it again.

The problem is, the only way to protect the next girl is to become the next girl. And, well, that could be a little risky ... even deadly.

My Take

My second search for a book for my weekend book group to read. I wonder what they will make of this one?

Wilhelmina (Billie) Spencer-Tate wants to work as a para-legal in New York, but now she has lost her job. For Billie is not what she seems.

In fact she is a one-person vigilante. She uses her job to identify, select, and then target men who abuse and gaslight women. She attempts to "bring them to justice". She uses her considerable high-tech skills to reveal their true profiles on social media. It is dangerous work because if she is caught she could be prosecuted, imprisoned, or even worse.  She has had successes, but she has also had her failures.

It all started when her mother committed suicide...

This is an incredibly complex, multi-stranded, novel, and I'm sure that occasionally I literally lost the plot, but that was my fault rather than the author's. But something just keeps you reading, because you really want Billie to succeed.

My rating: 4.2

About the author

Pip Drysdale is a bestselling author, musician, and actor. She grew up in Africa, Canada, and Australia, became an adult in New York and London, and lives on a steady diet of coffee, dreams, and literature. Her debut novel, The Sunday Girl, was a bestseller and has been published in five countries. The Strangers We Know, her follow up, also a bestseller in Australia, is being developed for television. Connect with Pip at PipDrysdale.com or on Facebook and Instagram @PipDrysdale.

5 February 2023

Review: HEADLAND, John Byrnes

  • This edition published in 2023 by Allen & Unwin
  • ISBN 978-1-76106-761-7
  • 289 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A coastal town is evacuated after record floods. Three young police officers are left behind. With a killer.
'Following in the footsteps of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer . . . Byrnes does a fantastic job of turning the relentless downpour into a constant threat. This thriller is a pacy and compelling debut.' - Books+Publishing

The small beachside town of Gloster is on the edge of disaster. After constant rain, floodwaters are rising fast.

Detective Constable Craig Watson, exiled to Gloster from Sydney, is a young man with a damaged past and an uncertain future.

Constables Ellie Cameron and Larissa Brookes are young women struggling to show their worth as police officers under a misogynistic sergeant.

The drowning town holds a secret that someone is prepared to murder for, and as the floodwaters cut Gloster off from the world the three young police officers begin to understand that it's not just them left stranded. Somewhere out there in the floodwaters is a killer. And he needs them dead.

Taut, compelling and visceral, John Byrnes' Headland announces a major new voice in Australian crime fiction.

My Take

My turn to choose 2 books for our "friends" book group which meets monthly and reads crime fiction. On the surface, HEADLAND fits the bill: recently published, Australian noir crime fiction, and  an author we haven't read before. In addition Target has low cost copies, and the local library system has a couple.

With many Australian states impacted by flooding, the setting feels very topical: a small New South Wales coastal village about to be evacuated because of rising floods. In addition, flood mitigation works supposedly spent over the previous five years have not solved the town's problems, money appearing to have been siphoned off into private building projects and expensive cars.

Craig Watson's posting to the town is a last-ditch effort to keep him in the police force. He is addicted to prescription drugs, and really not an impressive character. He is the replacement for a cop who was even less desirable, and the station boss works only a fraction of each day, spending most of his time in the pub.

So, the book has the making of an interesting story, but I'm not sure how far the rest of my group will get. The blurb says it is "visceral" - there are short sections of explicit sexual description - important for understanding how far Craig Watson has fallen and why - kindly published in italics so you can leap over them if you really want to. We are given Watson's back story episodically, but I really didn't develop any empathy for him. 

So I've come away from this book in two minds, but it may well work as a thriller for male readers.

My rating: 3.5

About the author
Born in Sydney, John moved to Mid North Coast of New South Wales with his wife and three children in 2012. He has a broad range of life experience having spent time in the Australian Army, worked fishing trawlers out of Darwin, worked bars and doors in pubs and clubs all over Australia, and somehow ended up with an Economics Degree. He started writing in 2015 and has a fascination with the darker aspects of the human condition; the addicted, the malevolent, the scarred. He cheers for the outsider, the slacker, the contrarian, the non-conformist.

When he is not writing or pondering the darkness within men's souls he works part-time in financial services.

Review: THE COUPLE AT NUMBER 9, Claire Douglas

  • This book available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09KRXJZQ1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper Paperbacks (August 2, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 398 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0063246325

Synopsis (Amazon

The internationally bestselling author of Do Not Disturb and Just Like the Other Girls delivers a heart-pounding psychological thriller about a couple who inherit what seems to be their dream home, until they make a horrifying discovery—and the danger begins.

The Victims . . .

When pregnant Saffron Cutler moves into 9 Skelton Place with boyfriend Tom and sets about renovations, the last thing she expects is builders uncovering human remains. The remains of two bodies, in fact.

The Investigation . . .

Forensics indicate the bodies have been buried at least thirty years. Saffy has nothing to worry about—until the police launch a murder inquiry and ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner. Her grandmother, Rose.

The Witness . . .

Rose is in a nursing home and Alzheimer’s means her memory is increasingly confused. She can’t help the police, but its’ clear she remembers something.

The Killer . . .

As Rose’s fragmented memories resurface, and the police dig ever deeper, Saffy fears she and the cottage are being watched.

The Truth . . .

What happened thirty years ago? Why did no one miss the victims? What part did her grandmother play? And is Saffy now in danger? 

My Take

When builders excavating for an addition to the cottage at Number 9 Skelton Place discover two bodies buried at least 30 years earlier Saffy is convinced that her grandmother, the previous owner of the house will know nothing about them. But it becomes obvious that Rose, now in a nursing home, and suffering from Alzheimer's, does know something.

The narrative is told by several voices, among them Rose herself. 

The reader is told at the beginning of each chapter who the narrator is, but their voices are also strong and clear. The reader is invited to piece together what happened a little over 30 years earlier when Rose first came to the village with her daughter Lolly and took a lodger.

Saffy, the current owner of the cottage, is Lolly's daughter and has inherited the cottage from her grandmother Rose. She is determined to prove that Rose has nothing to do with the bodies.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Claire Douglas is the award winning author of seven stand alone thrillers, THE SISTERS, LOCAL GIRL MISSING, LAST SEEN ALIVE, DO NOT DISTURB, THEN SHE VANISHES, JUST LIKE THE OTHER GIRLS and her most recent, THE COUPLE AT NO. 9, which is a number one Amazon bestseller and reached number three on the Sunday Times bestsellers list. Her books have sold over 500,000 copies in the UK and have been translated into twenty languages.

You can find Claire on Twitter at @DougieClaire, Instagram as clairedouglasauthor, or visit her Facebook page clairedouglasauthor

30 January 2023

Review: DAUGHTERS OF EVE, Nina. D. Campbell

  • This edition made available as an e-book by my local library through Libby
  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Allen & Unwin; 1st edition (29 March 2022)
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1761065386
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1761065385 

Synopsis (Amazon)

When a high-profile murder lands literally at her feet, Detective Emilia Hart sees a chance to expand her caseload beyond the endless succession of domestic violence matters she is forced to investigate. But this is no simple investigation.

Another body turns up, then another. Then more - a lot more. All men, all shot, with a similar MO. It's not until a manifesto taking credit for the crimes is published by a group calling themselves Daughters of Eve that Hart confirms a link between the victims: all of them had been perpetrators themselves. All had offended against women or children. Few had been charged with those crimes - and none convicted.

As panic sets in and chaos rules the streets, the police draw ever closer to the Daughters of Eve, but the serial killer continues to elude them. Again, Hart sees something that everyone else has missed. And what that is, she cannot believe.

A stunning debut that will take you to the edge and dare you to look down. 

My Take

Detective Emilia Hart is leaving court after a stressful day when the barrister crossing the road alongside her drops dead, shot by a sniper. As the bodies pile up in the next few days, Hart discovers common threads, bringing to a male dominated police investigation a female intuition that makes connections that the men just don't see. 

The case begins in Sydney but similar cases begin to turn up, first in Melbourne, then in other capital cities, and even in regional ones. As the body count mounts, a national task force is created, men take to the streets, and the government puts soldiers on the streets.

At first I enjoyed this novel, but then new layers were added to the plot, and there were just too many eggs in the basket, too many balls in the air, and there was only one way this tale could end, and even that had a twist in the tail.

Underneath the crime fiction, this story has a socio-political agenda. It points out to the reader the level of domestic violence in our communities, and the need for the sort of government action that would happen if it was actually the case of a single serial killer in action. 

I'm sure this will be a popular novel, certainly a memorable one, raising issues that are already recognised by quite a number of community programmes, but ones that do not appear to be having as much effect as they should at the local, largely hidden, level, despite the lip service and financial backing that they seem to get.

My rating: 4.3

About the Author
Nina D. Campbell studied theatre and literature at university before stumbling into the world of work in the midst of the recession that we had to have. She cobbled together a respectable career as a professional writer, working across the community and public sectors, before a midlife health challenge changed her priorities. Nina now writes fiction full-time, with a focus on stories about strong women. Together with her partner and their spirited Jack Russell Terrier, she lives in South Australia, close to world class wine regions, sparkling beaches and other tempting delights.

26 January 2023

Review: THE GILDED CAGE, Camilla Lackberg

  • this title made available as an e-book by my local library on Libby
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HarperCollins GB (23 March 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0008283729
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0008283728
  • Translated by Neil Smith
  • #1 in the Faye Adelheim series
  • Sequel title: SILVER TEARS 

Synopsis (publisher)

A sexy, sensational novel with intoxicating vengeance and an unexpected tenderness’ ...

A woman who has everything…

People would kill to have Faye Adelheim’s life. She lives in a beautiful apartment, she has a gorgeous husband who gives her everything she’s ever wanted, and she has an adorable daughter who lights up her world.

Or does she?

So how is it, then, that Faye now finds herself in a police station?

The truth is about to come out…

The truth is that Faye’s life is far from what it seems. And now she’s been caught out. There’s no way she’s going down without a fight. The only question is – who will escape with their life?

My Take

Like many married women Faye Adelheim's purpose in life appears to be to make her husband's life easier. Few of those who know her know that she was originally the brains behind her husband's very successful business. But even her husband doesn't really know who Faye really is. But by the end of the book we, the readers, do.

This translated-from-Swedish crime thriller, by Sweden's "Queen of Crime" begins with much more erotic scenarios and action than we British/Australian readers are generally used to.  But keep going... all will become clear and I promise you an enjoyable and thought provoking read, even a bit of escapism.

A cleverly constructed novel chosen for our book group related to the theme of gaslighting.

    Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that often occurs in abusive relationships. It is a covert type of emotional abuse in which the bully or abuser misleads the target, creating a false narrative and making them question their judgments and reality.1 Ultimately, the victim of gaslighting starts to feel unsure about their perceptions of the world and even wonder if they are losing their sanity. 
There is a sequel to the novel, SILVER TEARS, which I have already put my name now for. The copy that I read of THE GILDED CAGE had a promo for the sequel, which follows on from the twist at the end of THE GILDED CAGE.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read


with Henrik Fexeus: 4.8, TRAPPED 

24 January 2023

Review: LORD EDGWARE DIES, Agatha Christie

  • This edition available from Amazon as an e-book on Kindle 
  • Originally published 1933
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0BN5NJZJK
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ November 22, 2022
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 259 pages
  • My earlier review

Synopsis (Amazon)

When Lord Edgware is found murdered the police are baffled. His estranged actress wife was seen visiting him just before his death and Hercule Poirot himself heard her brag of her plan to “get rid” of him.

But how could she have stabbed Lord Edgware in his library at exactly the same time she was seen dining with friends? It’s a case that almost proves to be too much for the great Poirot.

Lord Edgware Dies was among the first of Christie's works to be adapted for film. In 1934 Austin Trevor took on the role of Poirot for the third time, directed by Henry Edwards. Peter Ustinov also starred in this story in 1985, under the original US title Thirteen at Dinner.

My Take 

I am planning to read another 10 Agatha Christie novels this year with my U3A Agatha Christie Reading Group. Of course I have read them all before, but that doesn't seem to prevent me from getting something out of the re-reading and discussion. My earlier review from 14 years ago.

I'm sure my reading group will enjoy this one. It is well-plotted with considerable misdirection and a number of red herrings.

I made considerable use this time of a note making facility in the Kindle which allows me to keep records of passages and my reactions to them. It helps me pay greater attention to the plot lines.

The story, Christie's 13th novel, and the 7th with Poirot in it, is narrated by Captain Hastings who makes sure he gets our attention by saying
"...from Poirot’s own peculiar private point of view, the case was one of his failures. He always swears that it was the chance remark of a stranger in the street that put him on the right track. However that may be, it was his genius that discovered the truth of the affair. But for Hercule Poirot I doubt if the crime would have been brought home to its perpetrator."

In the end Poirot blames himself for at least one of the deaths. It is actually Hastings who makes the blunder but Poirot excuses Hastings by saying he cannot be expected to recognise danger, because he is so accepting of people at face value. Whereas he Poirot has been used as a "cats-paw" by the murderer at least once.

In the long run it is quite a tangled plot and Poirot finds it hard to resolve the questions he has set himself.

At the end Hastings publishes a letter from the murderer which I felt it would have been out of character for Poirot to publish. However there was something similar in THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD.

I am looking forward to our group discussion in a few weeks time. We will follow the discussion with a viewing of the David Suchet version, which I see has Miss Lemon in it.

I am also going to raise the question of the significance of the US Title THIRTEEN AT DINNER,

My rating: 4.7

My list of Agatha Christie novels

21 January 2023

Review: THE DESCENT, Matt Brolly

  •  This edition an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0838ZYNWB
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thomas & Mercer (July 23, 2020)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 364 pages
  • #2 in the Detective Louise Blackwell series

Synopsis (Amazon)

Were they pushed to the edge—or over it?

In the quiet coastal town of Weston-super-Mare, a body is discovered at the foot of a cliff just months after a near-identical tragedy—and Detective Inspector Louise Blackwell can’t believe it could be a coincidence.

Next to the body, she discovers a note that echoes one found beside the first: Death is not the end. Louise is certain that behind these desperate acts someone is pulling the strings, but how many more will plunge to their demise before she can find out who—and why?

Struggling to stay focused under the strain of her troubled brother’s disappearance with his young daughter, Louise hits a much-needed breakthrough when a third tragedy points to the involvement of a charismatic cult leader. The suspect is within her sights, but he knows she’s on to him…

Short on proof and with the body count rising, can Louise intercept his deadly mission—or has she taken on an unbeatable foe? 

My Take

The characters and scenarios in this series are building nicely. DI Louise Blackwell is a believable character, surrounded by characters who were established in the first in this police procedural series, THE CROSSING 

Blackwell has to fight hard as her boss puts pressure on her to solve a difficult case in the shortest possible time. 

Meanwhile she is distracted as her brother goes missing with his young daughter, and then it is revealed that he has severe gambling debts as well as a drinking problem. Louise is torn between giving her all to her job, and the thought that her young niece is in danger.

This looks a good series to follow.

My Rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.5, THE CROSSING - #1

17 January 2023

Review: AFTER YOU WERE GONE, Vikki Wakefield

  • This edition made available as an e-book by my local library on Libby
  • Extent: 368pp
  • Text Publishing Australia:5 October 2022
  • ISBN: 9781922458001
  • Read an extract

Synopsis (publisher)

What happens to a family when a child goes missing?

In a busy street market, Abbie lets go of six-year-old Sarah’s hand. She isn’t a bad mother, just exhausted. When she turns around, her daughter isn’t there.

Six years later, Abbie is in love and getting married. But her fragile peace is constantly threatened: not knowing what happened to Sarah is like living with a curse.

Then she receives a phone call from an unknown number.

A man claims to know what happened to Sarah, but if Abbie tells anyone or fails to follow his instructions, she’ll never find out. How far will Abbie go to know the truth?

Prize-winning and hugely popular author Vikki Wakefield turns her hand to the psychological thriller in this unputdownable novel that will disturb your dreams!

My Take

Abbie has always blamed herself for losing Sarah, but she has never stopped looking for her.

This novel has a very adventurous time structure, with frequent use of chapter headings BEFORE, NOW, and, sometimes AFTER. The story line jumps between time frames, allowing to the reader to put together a picture of the life Abbie led, and eventually, who took Sarah. 

If you were Abbie, what would you do if someone offered you the unthinkable, to reunite you with the child you lost six years ago. What would you sacrifice?

A very jarring novel.

My rating: 4.6

About the Author
Vikki Wakefield writes fiction for adults and young adults. Her novels All I Ever Wanted, Friday Brown, Inbetween Days and Ballad for a Mad Girl have been shortlisted for numerous awards. This Is How We Change the Ending was a Book of the Year in the 2020 CBCA Awards. After You Were Gone, a psychological thriller, is her first novel for adults....


15 January 2023

Review: THE MAID. Nita Prose

  • This title made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published: 2nd February 2022, Harper Collins
  • ISBN: 9780008435738
  • 352 pages

Synopsis (bookseller)

I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?

But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between.

My Take

 Molly is 25 and she works a hotel as a maid. Until recently she lived with her grandmother who was instrumental in getting her her job. But 9 months ago her grandmother died and now all Molly has is her job, her flat, and her walk to work.
Molly takes great pride in being the best that she can be, in her ability to restore the rooms she cleans to perfection. She has few friends, basically only those she works with, and really Molly is not a good judge of people.

And then her world changes when she discovers one of the guests dead on his bed. She had cleaned the suite of rooms earlier but had returned later in the day to "do" the bathroom, and found Mr Black very dead.

Eventually the police charge Molly with murder, and now she finds out who her real friends are.

As you read you will discover that there is something a little different about Molly....

My rating: 4.4

About the author

As for my professional life, I work in the publishing industry. I began years ago as an intern, photocopying edited manuscripts and secretly snooping the fascinating margin conversations between editors and writers. Currently, I’m vice president and editorial director at Simon & Schuster in Toronto, Canada, where I have the privilege of working with an incredible array of authors and publishing colleagues whom I credit with teaching me, manuscript by manuscript, book by book, the wondrous craft of writing.

14 January 2023

Review: AGATHA CHRISTIE: A Very Elusive Woman, Lucy Worsley

  • This edition published By Hodder & Stoughton, Great Britain 2022
  • ISBN 978-1-528-30388-9
  • 415 pages

Synopsis (publisher

Nobody in the world was more inadequate to act the heroine than I was.'

Why did Agatha Christie spend her career pretending that she was 'just' an ordinary housewife, when clearly she wasn't? As Lucy Worsley says, 'She was thrillingly, scintillatingly modern'. She went surfing in Hawaii, she loved fast cars, and she was intrigued by the new science of psychology, which helped her through devastating mental illness.

So why - despite all the evidence to the contrary - did Agatha present herself as a retiring Edwardian lady of leisure?

She was born in 1890 into a world which had its own rules about what women could and couldn't do. Lucy Worsley's biography is not just of an internationally renowned bestselling writer. It's also the story of a person who, despite the obstacles of class and gender, became an astonishingly successful working woman.

With access to personal letters and papers that have rarely been seen, Lucy Worsley's biography is both authoritative and entertaining and makes us realise what an extraordinary pioneer Agatha Christie was - truly a woman who wrote the twentieth century. 

My Take

An impressive non-fiction work that covers Agatha Christie's whole life, written by a person who is quite obviously a "fan", well versed in the events of Christie's life and the books she has written.

I've also just watched, and can recommend, the first of the documentaries (4?) based on the book.

I was glad to see that Worsley shares some of my own impressions of the importance of Agatha Christie in crime fiction. She refers to some of Christie's plot strategies as Christie's "tricks" and refers to the way they made a difference to what we expect from crime fiction as a genre. The book has also sowed a few seeds that will influence my interpretation of the Christie novels that I intend reading this year.

My rating: 5.0

About the Author

Lucy Worsley OBE is Chief Curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces and also presents history documentaries for the BBC. Her bestselling books include Queen Victoria, Jane Austen at Home, A Very British Murder, If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home, Courtiers, Cavalier and four historical novels for young readers. In 2019 her BBC One programme Suffragettes with Lucy Worsley won a BAFTA. 

10 January 2023

Review: STONE TOWN, Margaret Hickey

  • Published: 1 July 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143777274
  • Imprint: Bantam Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • #2 Detective Sergeant Mark Ariti

Synopsis (publisher)

STONE TOWN is captivating new rural crime drama from the author of the bestselling Cutters End.

With its gold-rush history long in the past, Stone Town has seen better days. And it’s now in the headlines for all the wrong reasons . . .

When three teenagers stumble upon a body in dense bushland one rainy Friday night, Senior Sergeant Mark Ariti’s hopes for a quiet posting in his old home town are shattered. The victim is Aidan Sleeth, a property developer, whose controversial plan to buy up local land means few are surprised he ended up dead.

However, his gruesome murder is overshadowed by a mystery consuming the entire nation: the disappearance of Detective Sergeant Natalie Whitsed.

Natalie had been investigating the celebrity wife of crime boss Tony ‘The Hook’ Scopelliti when she vanished. What did she uncover? Has it cost her her life? And why are the two Homicide detectives, sent from the city to run the Sleeth case, so obsessed with Natalie’s fate?

Following a late-night call from his former boss, Mark is sure of one thing: he’s now in the middle of a deadly game . . .

My Take

The sequel to CUTTER'S END. Mark Ariti has been appointed to his home town of Stone Town, in South Australia's mid north. His quiet life is disrupted by the discovery of a body in the bush, and then the arrival of reinforcements from Adelaide, with an additional interest in locating a missing CID detective.

The main narrator is Mark Ariti, but a second narrative thread hints ta what has happened to Natalie Whitsed. 

A cleverly constructed story. 

My rating: 4.6 

I've also read


9 January 2023

Review: BLEEDING HEART YARD, Elly Griffiths

  • this edition published by Quercus Great Britain 2022
  • ISBN 978-1-52940-996-3
  • 340 pages
  • #3 in the Harbinder Kaur series

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

A murderer strikes at a school reunion—but the students are no strangers to death— in this propulsive, twisty thriller from the internationally bestselling author of the Ruth Galloway Mysteries

Is it possible to forget that you’ve committed a murder?

When Cassie Fitzgerald was at school in the late 90s, she and her friends killed a fellow student. Almost twenty years later, Cassie is a happily married mother who loves her job—as a police officer. She closely guards the secret she has all but erased from her memory.

One day her husband finally persuades her to go to a school reunion. Cassie catches up with her high-achieving old friends from the Manor Park School—among them two politicians, a rock star, and a famous actress. But then, shockingly, one of them, Garfield Rice, is found dead in the school bathroom, supposedly from a drug overdose. As Garfield was an eminent—and controversial—MP and the investigation is high profile, it’s headed by Cassie’s new boss, DI Harbinder Kaur, freshly promoted and newly arrived in London. The trouble is, Cassie can’t shake the feeling that one of them has killed again.

Is Cassie right, or was Garfield murdered by one of his political cronies? It’s in Cassie’s interest to skew the investigation so that it looks like it has nothing to do with Manor Park and she seems to be succeeding.

Until someone else from the reunion is found dead in Bleeding Heart Yard…

My Take

While this was written with the author's usual aplomb and skill, my main beef with the plot was the final resolution which felt plucked out of nowhere, and, looking back through the plot, I didn't feel there were many hints for the reader.

The book developed Harbinder Kaur's career and her social life. Apart from that it told us that when something traumatic happens, most of us will not remember the finer details, or may even interpret them incorrectly.

A good read. I recommend reading the two earlier books in the series first.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read


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